What is The Origin of Clip On Earrings?

Harmony Ball
4 min readSep 16, 2019
costume clip on earrings

What is The Origin of Clip On Earrings — How Did They Come About?

The origin of clip on earrings is relatively recent. Clip on earrings, or earrings for non-pierced ears and often shortened to just ‘clipons’, were not a common item of jewellery until the late 19th century (the Victorian era). It appears that at this time ear piercing was considered somewhat barbaric and uncivilized. Women during this Victorian period shunned the vulgarity of idea of putting holes in their earlobes but still wanted to adorn themselves with earrings.

So an entrepreneurial London jeweler was credited with inventing a screw type of fitting that sat at the back of the earring that when tightened firmly it held the earring on to the earlobe. This pleased the affluent women of society that ear piercing was no longer required and hence the clip on earring was born. At about the same period ‘costume’ or faux jewellery took off and the new style of earrings became popular among the population in general, much to the ire of the affluent who disliked the fact that commoners were wearing fakes that were hardly distinguishable from those with genuine precious metals and gemstones. The most popular style of the Victorian era were the large clip-on crystal chandelier earrings which are an iconic symbol of the fashion of that period and still popular today particularly as bridal jewellery. Earrings in general remain today as one of the most popular, if not the most popular, form of jewellery that women wear.

clip on earrings in sterling silver with amethyst gems — dragonfly design
clip on earrings in sterling silver with amethyst gems — dragonfly design

Whilst clip on earrings are a recent advent historically, pierced earrings on the other hand were first recorded as early as 3,000 B.C. in the Middle East. They were an indicator of the individual’s social status in the community and were also a method of ascertaining the identity of the wearer’s tribe and sometimes even the religion or political bent of the wearer. Those made of precious metals and gemstones were worn as a matter of choice and pride by those who were wealthy or in power and conversely very rough inferior ones were worn as a label of ownership by those who were enslaved.

Screw back clip-on earrings enjoyed another surge in popularity in the early 1900s and into the 1920s when the short hairstyles worn by many women of the era were popular which enhanced ear adornments as a fashionable focal point. Typically Diamante clip on earrings became popular in for their simple, elegant styling.

clip on earrings in long chandelier style
clip on earrings in long chandelier style

Around 1930’s clip-on earrings went through a technological development with the advent of spring clips. Both screw back and spring clip-on styles were widely used for earrings for the next 40 years until a resurgence of popularity of pierced earrings in the 80’s. Clip on earrings are still popular among some women and particularly for wearing large sometimes quite heavy chandelier style earrings as these can cause discomfort in the ear piercing when worn for long periods. Wedding earrings worn by Brides tend to be chandelier earrings and typically will be clip on style. Button style and vintage clip on earrings are also popular with many women. Today there are many variants of non pierced earrings, all of which rely on some type of clasp or clip that attaches to the earlobe including spring clip on hoop earrings where the spring slides back inside the hollow hoop earring.

Other advantages of clip on earrings are that they are a very practical alternative for those that are susceptible to ear infections or allergies, from the actual piercing process or wearing pierced types. They can also be a good choice as earrings for young girls. Many women who have their ears pierced will still wear clip on earrings occasionally because they are so versatile.

Clip on earrings at dazzlers clip on earrings are available in many different styles and materials.

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